A Call to Action for Immigrant Rights

This post was written by Carlene Pinto, Manager of Member Engagement NYC, The New York Immigration Coalition as part of our PowHer the Vote 2017 campaign.

As New Yorkers we have an inherent obligation to stand up for what’s right. Representing New York City, one of the most diverse cities in the world, means supporting the work of those most impacted everyday. The New York Immigration Coalition has been on the forefront of this fight, especially in the hostile federal climate we’re facing today: from Trump’s xenophobic rants about Mexicans that kicked off his campaign, to his blatant islamophobia and Muslim Ban, to his attack on DREAMers and the use of their families as bargaining chips.

Although New York City and its people have been at the vanguard in the ongoing resistance, the truth is that the City can and should be doing more than it has. It is not enough to take a visible, public stance supporting immigrants communities if policies fall short, leaving those most vulnerable at risk. Leaders must take concrete action, like the  unprecedented $10M investment in the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) from the City Council, which seeks to provide all detained immigrants with a lawyer if they cannot afford one. However, unwarranted conditions set on the use of the funds backs away from the basic premise of universal representation that has been a hallmark of New York City’s immigration legal programs and would deny the right to counsel to those immigrants who would need it the most. The only way to ensure that every New Yorker receives a fair day in Court is to provide access to counsel for all.

The discussion of intersectionality is important in how we advance immigrant rights across our city. There are several City Council bills that impact immigrants and communities of color that could be advanced to protect our locality in the face of federal abuses of power.  The Right To Know Act is a legislative package to protect the civil and human rights of New Yorkers in everyday encounters with the NYPD by improving transparency and accountability. It consists of two bills (Int. 182B & Int. 541A) that are endorsed by 200+ organizations, have majority support in the NYC Council and are awaiting a vote.

The Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act is another bill that would provide local transparency in a time where we need it most. There is deep concern about how the Trump administration will use the powerful surveillance tools at its disposal, whether to target historically marginalized communities under the guise of national security, to bluntly enforce immigration laws, or to wage “war” on the news media. But in New York City, there should be no confusion about the NYPD’s role in Trump’s agenda, the types of surveillance tools being used on New Yorkers, or the information that the NYPD collects and share with state and federal agencies. The POST Act establishes transparency and reporting requirements for the NYPD’s use of potent surveillance technologies and its participation in information sharing networks. It is similar to bills recently passed or introduced in other progressive cities, such as Seattle, San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Oakland, and it follows the recommendation of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

It is also crucial that New York City commit itself to protecting and expanding Worker’s Rights. Two weeks ago, the New York City Council voted unanimously to approve a worker safety bill that the NYIC and our member organizations NICE and La Colmena have championed. This bill 1447C establishes safety protocols as a way to prevent construction worker deaths. The vote came one week after two construction workers fell to their deaths hours apart in separate accidents. The bill, Intro 1447-C, would establish safety training requirements for workers at construction sites. The legislation would require construction workers to receive at least 40 hours of safety training as specified by the Department of Buildings; allow employees to continue working while they complete the training; and develop a program that grants equal access to training for all workers, including day laborers and workers employed by certain small business contractors. The bill also includes a required 40-hour class with the United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (or OSHA).

As New Yorkers it’s important that we stand up for the values that make our city great. In order to do that, we need to hold our local, state and federal elected officials accountable to protecting our communities and those most vulnerable to these ongoing attacks.